Narratively

 

The Life that Swings

Recording careers and world tours long behind them, two senior citizen jazz musicians find themselves still making music at unlikely venues.

By | April 9, 2013

Nearly every day for the past thirty years, Maurice McIntyre has taken the subway from his studio apartment on St. Ann’s Avenue in the South Bronx to play his saxophone on the Grand Central and Union Square train platforms. On good days, his saxophone case fills with $40 to $60 in small bills and loose change. At seventy-seven years old, Maurice hasn’t even entertained the thought of not working.

“I’ll work till I die,” said Maurice, who suffered a heart attack three weeks ago at his home and has been hospitalized since.

At the height of his career in the 1960s and ‘70s, Maurice led his own band, recorded and toured internationally. Then jazz clubs began closing their doors and opportunities disappeared with them.

“Musicians don’t have the option of retiring,” says Marianne Pillsbury, communications and musician programs manager for Jazz Foundation of America, a nonprofit that provides relief and assistance to jazz and blues musicians. “The single biggest issue musicians everywhere face is finding work. Finding the next gig.”

In an average year, the Jazz Foundation of America helps around seven hundred musicians and their families by providing or connecting them with services, ranging from crisis relief to social, medical and legal resources. It also gives musicians, like sixty-nine-year-old piano player Roy Meriwether, a weekly venue to jam with other musicians.

Play

Mission Impossible: Finding the Perfect Name for My Kid

A new dad on the nightmare-inducing challenge of coming up with a timeless but fresh, cool but not too cool name for his son.

Play

Adventure Is in My DNA

A filmmaker and surfer proudly explores her Indigenous roots, and discovers that thrill-seeking runs in the family.

Play

These 4 Women Are Taking on a Politician Near You

The coalminer’s daughter. The bartender. The police brutality activist. The grieving mother. Each looked at the man representing her in Congress and said, “I can do better.”

Play

The Grieving Mom Fighting for a Healthcare System That Actually Works

Amy Vilela lost her daughter when she couldn’t afford the medical bills. When her Congressman told her he wouldn’t support universal healthcare, Amy said, “I’m running.”

Play

This Ferguson Activist Wants to be Missouri’s First Black Congresswoman

Cori Bush is a registered nurse, a pastor and a mom. After taking to the streets to protest police killings, she looked in the mirror and said, “why not politician, too?”

Play

The 28-Year-Old Latina Challenging New York’s Most Powerful Congressman

“The Boss of the Queens Machine” hasn’t faced a primary challenger in 14 years. But an underfunded upstart is suddenly giving him a run for his money.

Play

This Coalminer’s Daughter Is Mad as Hell—And Running for the U.S. Senate

Paula Jean Swearengin has seen West Virginia’s land exploited, its people fall ill, and its politicians do nothing. So she decided to do something herself.

Play

The Collector of Time

As Mark McKinley puts it, “no collector ever says, ‘I’ve gone too far.'” After 27 years and an official Guinness World Record, he stands by that statement.

Play

The Saviors of Saffron

Three young Spaniards are reviving the farming tradition that flourished in their grandparents' generation.